The Sovereign negotiating sale to Loyola University Chicago

The Sovereign, an historic, and massive apartment building in its corner of Edgewater Beach, has been placed on the market for sale by its owner, IRMCO Properties and Management Corp. The interested client is the largest landowner in the area, Loyola University Chicago.

The university, an institution of the Jesuits Chicago-Detroit Province, and IRMCO have signed a type of contract that allows Loyola to make its assessments of the building—figuring out renovations, repairs and staffing issues—while it hammers out a plan of purchase. IRMCO in turn, under contract, can’t entertain other offers of sale.

The Sovereign was once a luxury hotel. Built in 1924, it has 283 studios and one-bedroom apartments. Photo by Gerald Farinas.

Loyola’s Aggressive Real Estate Growth

Loyola has been extremely aggressive with real estate purchases and development in recent years. It is currently overseeing various construction projects in Rogers Park and Edgewater. This includes a new phase of a master-planned community along Sheridan Road—which brought the construction of The Morgan, The Flats and a CVS-anchored parking garage—construction of new dormitories, and the reconstruction of the Loyola CTA station to start in May.

One of many business closures from Loyola’s development plans, Karavites Management (owned by a Loyola alumnus) decided to shutter its train station restaurant on March 1. It doesn’t plan to return after construction is finished.

Gentrification—Keep It That Way

The Granville Avenue corridor between the lakefront and Broadway has seen significant changes in recent years with the addition of trendy eateries. Popular among them are Metropolis Coffee Co., m. henrietta, and Pete’s Pizzeria and Bakehouse. Photo by Gerald Farinas.

Reports are that Loyola President Rev. Michael Garanzini, SJ had contemplated a purchase of the property for awhile now. Vice President of Campus and Community Planning Jennifer Clark has shared, “238 apartments under bad management could undo all the work we’ve done to make the neighborhood safe and secure.”

What does that mean? Loyola is saying it is afraid of risking another buyer who would turn the building into low-rent apartments, bringing in unsavory characters. In other words, it’s saying that it needs to purchase the property to maintain the area, format it in accordance with its own vision of the neighborhood, and bring it under university control, so that it does not revert to a time when the general area was in decay—prostitution, drug dealing, gang violence.

What’s To Become of Current Residents?

The fate of current tenants is uncertain. IRMCO says about 60% of its apartments are leased to Loyola students. But many others are young professionals, senior citizens maintaining independent urban lifestyles. Jennifer Clark maintains that for now, there are no plans to turn The Sovereign into a residence hall, office building or classrooms.

The Hotel Sovereign—an Edgewater Historic Gem

The Hotel Sovereign was once a 1920s luxury hotel with a guest list that included King Christian X of Denmark, the future Duke of Windsor, Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, the Andrews Sisters and even legendary gangster Al Capone. Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame was a lifeguard at the swimming pool now used by the present-day Edgewater Athletic Club.

The Sovereign featured in a postcard from its early hotel days. Courtesy of CRCC historic collection.

The back of a vintage postcard from the time reads, “A hotel of character, with perfectly appointed apartments, suites, and hotel rooms. A luxurious dining room for delicious food and choice liquor. Tile swimming pool and massage salon. Located in the finest part of the beautiful North Side, overlooking Lake Michigan. One block from motor coaches and the elevated.”

The Hotel Sovereign was designed by Walter W. Ahlschlager. Compass Rose noted that American Builder Magazine described the new high-rise as “the richest and most pleasing of the year among Chicago apartment hotels.”

IRMCO Portfolio Put On Sale

IRMCO purchased the building after a period of neighborhood blight. Revitalized, it was one in a family of properties redeveloped by Leonard D. Richman in the 1960s. Others included the Seneca Hotel on the Gold Coast, the Belden-Stratford in Lincoln Park, and the North Shore Hotel in Evanston.

The oldest IRMCO property is the North Shore Retirement Hotel, built in 1919. It is also for sale.

Late last year, IRMCO named HFF to manage the sale of its portfolio of properties:

  • The Belden-Stratford at 2300 Lincoln Park West, 297 units built in 1923
  • Flamingo Apartments at 5500 South Shore Drive, 167 units built in 1926
  • The Seneca at 200 East Chestnut, 264 units built in 1926
  • Sovereign Apartments at 1040 West Granville Avenue, 283 units built in 1924
  • Versailles Apartments at 5254 S. Dorchester Avenue, 96 Units built in 1920
  • North Shore Retirement Hotel at 1611 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, 185 units, built in 1919 says, “Pricing for the portfolio is anticipated to be well in excess of $200 million.”

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